Richard Blais

Top Chef: 10 Years Later

Get ready for a lot of 10’s!  There are 10 chefs left on Top Chef in this week’s episode, and the challenges are appropriately themed.  It has also been 10 years since the very first season of Top Chef premiered.

So, for the Quickfire, the 10 chefs can only use the same 10 ingredients.  Each chef has 20 seconds to pick one, they don’t have to use all 10, but they can use nothing else.

  • Phillip grabs beef
  • Isaac gets chicken
  • Chad picks jalapeño
  • Jeremy adds salt
  • Marjorie selects vinegar
  • Karen grabs olive oil
  • Kwame picks garlic
  • Amar gets mushrooms
  • Carl selects tomato
  • Jason chooses celery

Top Chef Alumna Antonia Lofaso is here to judge the Quickfire with Padma.  She selects Isaac and Karen as having made her least favorite dishes, and Jeremy and Amar as having made her favorites.  Jeremy wins and receives immunity!

The elimination challenge is also 10 themed.  Padma can barely make it through her giggles to the list of things that were happening 10 years ago– that Myspace was the most popular website (oof) and Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes.  The chefs need to put themselves 10 years ago on a plate and serve it to a table of (surprise!) 10.

It’s really fun to hear the stories of where these chefs were (and who these chefs were!) 10 years ago, but for one, it’s not a happy memory.  Kwame can’t get out of his own head during this one.  Michael Voltaggio (heart-eyes emoji) comes around with Tom to taste, as he’s one of the four Top Chef Alumni attending the dinner (the others being Antonia, Blaise, and last year’s winner Mei Lin!).  Phillip makes a literal fool out of himself explaining how he can’t cook to the judges’ tastes.  Tom tries to explain the concept of simply cooking good food correctly, but it’s not sinking in.

Here’s what they make:

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Gail makes a comment to Tom while they enjoy that she sat down next to him 10 years ago and here they still are!  Too cute.  The two of them plus Padma, Blaise, and Michael Voltaggio sit at the judges table to give the good news– their favorite dishes belonged to Marjorie, Chad, and Carl.  Marjorie gets her second win!

Now for the bad news– Jeremy’s immunity saved him this week, but Kwame got in his own head and ended up on the bottom, as did Phillip and Jason.  Jason is eliminated, he’s seemed a bit off-beat for a while.  He packs his knives, but something tells me Phillip could be right behind him… enough excuses, just cook well!

Thoughts?!

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Top Chef: Hot Hot Heat

Sorry this is late, guys!  The right-before-the-holidays hustle and bustle gets you, am I right?!  Just as it’s getting cool over here on the East Coast, we check in with Top Chef: California in Palm Springs where the chefs experience some extreme heat!

The Quickfire challenge takes place in the desert.  After a jeep tour to the San Andreas Fault, the chefs are faced with super weird solar ovens and solar stoves to harness the sun and cook for Padma Lakshmi and guest judge José Andrés.  The chefs draw knives to determine who will cook on the solar stoves– let’s call them giant silver satellite dishes– and who will use the solar ovens– weird tubes you have to orient toward to sun.  The ovens look a lot more intimidating, and Giselle freaking shatters hers by putting liquid in it!  Others have more success, like Isaac who makes cornbread in his.  Wesley redeems himself from last week and wins the Quickfire and immunity!

The stoves become the blue team and the ovens become the orange team.  These two teams of seven are to create a progressive four course meal… to be served on the golf course!

Here’s what they make:

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Blue down left in course order; Orange down right in course order

Tom seems amped to play golf.  Padma, Blais, and guest judge José all show off remarkable lacks of golf skills.  I know of a couple of kids they can take lessons from!

The fact that they’re serving from refreshment carts in extreme heat and significant wind presents complications.  Phillip makes his second odd choice of the day (the first was serving Padma an oyster on a desert rock in the Quickfire) by plating underneath his serving table.  Padma, José, and John Besh all lose it with laughter at this, the “weirdest experience” of Padma’s life.

The Blue team is declared the winner, with Jeremy closing in on his second win!  On the Orange team, it’s Grayson who’s asked to pack her knives.

…but who didn’t see that coming?  Thoughts?!

Top Chef Boston: Finale

I’ve honestly been dreading this episode, because that means this wonderful season of Top Chef is over!  However, I’ve been dying to see who will take this title… especially when it’s down to Gregory and Mei, who, as the episode notes, have traded wins all season.

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It starts off with a lovely hot air balloon ride over San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  Though Mei seems a bit nervous (“We might die today!) both she and Greg get to take is some breathtaking scenes.  As they come down, they see a more familiar scene: Tom and Padma.

They know and we know: this is the start of their final challenge.  It’s a simple one, according to Tom: Create the best four course meal of your life.  No pressure, right?

It’s time to pick their sous chefs!  Since Gregory won last time around, he gets first pick.  He choses Doug.  Mei is happy that leaves her the opportunity to pick her first choice, Melissa.  Gregory then selects George to round out his team.  Mei grabs Rebecca with the intentions of making a dessert.

They’re cooking for a panel of intimidating chefs including Michael Cimarusti, Donnie Masterton, and Gavin Kaysen.  They are also cooking, of course, for our fabulous judges Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson, and Richard Blaise.

On a couple courses, Mei and Gregory are going head to head.  Mei is doing dessert and Gregory is not.  They are both bringing their A games and they are both bringing influences from their experience in Mexico.

Mei makes:

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Greg makes:

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Both first courses go well, though Mei’s octopus is noted to be a bit chewy.  Gail likes it, but Richard calls it the biggest technical mistake of the dinner.  Greg seems to win this course.

The second course winner is Mei’s congee, as the shrimp heads in Greg’d didn’t go over well with Padma.  The third course winner is Mei as well.  Gregory made a mistake in his sauce and couldn’t correct it in time for service.

The final course was the best for each chef, majorly impressive all the judges!

After deliberation, Mei and Greg stand in from of Padma, Tom, Hugh, Gail, and Richard.  All of their Boston competitors standby to watch the big moment.  “Mei,” says Padma, “You are Top Chef!

I am so excited for Mei!  Though I think both she and Greg (and a lot of the other cheftestants) deserve to be there, I was really cheering Mei on!  She had so much drive to make her family proud and to live up to her chef, Top Chef Michael Voltaggio!  She call him at the end of the episode overwhelmed, and it’s a very sweet moment!  Can you believe she’s only the third woman that has ever won?  Hopefully we can see some more female Top Chef winners soon!

What did you think of Mei’s big win?!

Top Chef Boston: Final Four & Family

After another tough elimination last week, the final four enter the kitchen to a bit of a surprise.  Padma announces that there will be no Quickfire Challenge this week.  There will also be no elimination this week.  Instead, the winner of the challenge will go straight into the finale in Mexico!

Each cheftestant is responsible for both an appetizer and an entrée.  Because of the extra work, each receives a sous chef in the form of a family member– Melissa gets her mom, Alice; Gregory gets his sister, Jessica; George gets his dad, Mr. Tony; and Mei gets her brother, Harly.  The family member is in charge of the appetizer and the chefs can’t touch it!

The challenge makes me long for summer, as they head to Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury.  They dredge up some oysters and also get some other beautiful seafood options provided by Island Creek.  IMG_1188Then they head to this gorgeous house in Gloucester where the spend the night before the challenge.

The chefs talk about the challenges their families create.  George used to work for his father and is unsure how the role reversal will go.  Mei, a self-professed control freak, is very apprehensive about having to work with her brother.  There are some really nice moments too.  Melissa’s mom Alice is really the star of the episode.  “No Sesame Street, always cooking shows,” she says of her daughter fondly, “That’s not a normal child!”  She jokes further about asking Melissa where she wanted to go to college.  When Melissa replied not college, CIA, Alice asked, like James Bond?!  Too cute.  Having said her father is not supportive, Melissa is lucky to have this awesome mom.  Mei confesses that both her parents are like Melissa’s dad.

The next day, against a gorgeous seaside backdrop, the chefs and families serve up their dishes to a table including judges Richard Blais, Padma, and Tom.  Here’s what they make:

Gregory paid more attention to his sister's dish than his own and wasn't happy with the cook of his fish.

Gregory paid more attention to his sister’s dish than his own and wasn’t happy with the cook of his fish.

Melissa's mom made a fantastic custard and was even ahead of schedule.  Melissa's dish was raved about, saying it was the best lobster ever and the veggies were the star.

Melissa’s mom made a fantastic custard and was even ahead of schedule. Melissa’s dish was raved about, saying it was the best lobster ever and the veggies were the star.

Mr. Tony was able to take direction from his son, but maintained his pride.  When Tom asked how he prepared his dish, he says that he prepared it, but in George's way.  Hah!

Mr. Tony was able to take direction from his son, but maintained his pride. When Tom asked how he prepared his dish, he says that he prepared it, but in George’s way. Hah!

Mei and her brother ended up working together well and both dishes came out great!

Mei and her brother ended up working together well and both dishes came out great!

 

The top two are Mei & Melissa, and the winner, headed straight to the finale is Melissa!  Her mom is elated and through tears proclaims, “I just had such a good time!”

I cried too.  It was lovely!

But it’s back to fierce competition next week at a new time!  (Yup, Top Chef is moving to 9 pm Eastern!  Thank goodness; I’m so tired.)  Who do you think will join Melissa in Mexico?!

 

Top Chef Boston: Redemption

This is the episode I’ve been afraid to watch.  I was one of the Top Chef super fans invited to this amazing experience, and I missed the invite email while at the beach!  What a loser I am!  Still, I’m happy enough to watch & enjoy this show and get a retweet from Padma!

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There was a lot of fun things about this episode, though!  So let’s recap!  Jasper White joined Padma Lakshmi to announce the Sudden Death Quickfire– with a twist!  This was a particularly fun one for me as a New England girl because it was all about clam chowder!  I mocked the idea of Adam’s play on Manhattan clam chowder… because ew.  New England or bust.  Here’s what the cheftestants cooked up:

  • Mei: Clam & Lobster Chowder with yuzu ailoi, celery & fennel
  • Katsuji: Oyster Chowder with poblano, jalapeño & toasted garlic
  • Gregory:  Razor Clam & Sweet Potato Chowder with bacon, dashi & coconut milk broth
  • Adam: Red Wine Poached Littleneck Clams, boiled potatoes, carrots, celery & tomato water
  • Melissa: Cioppino Chowder with clams, shrimp, white wine, onions, leeks & garlic
  • Doug: Grilled Oyster Chowder with steam clam broth & fresh jalapeño
  • Katie: Clams in Lobster Stock with black tea & sourdough

Jasper announces his favorites– Adam, Gregory, and Melissa.  The ultimate winner is Gregory, who earns immunity for the elimination challenge!  Jasper’s least favorites were Doug, Katsuji, Mei, and Katie.  Katie loses and is up for elimination.

Remember that twist I was talking about?  Tom walks in holding a silver dome.  Behind him are all the eliminated cheftestants.  The eliminated chefs are to elect the one amongst them to go up against Katie and win their spot back in the competition.  They chose George, who was abruptly eliminated in the first Sudden Death Quickfire and never got to show his skills.  I’m so happy to see him get this opportunity to redeem himself!  Knowing he works with Mike Isabella is enough of an endorsement for me!

Tom pulls the cover off the dome to reveal rabbit.  Katie makes braised rabbit leg with Moroccan tomato sauce, while George makes roasted rabbit loin, barley risotto, glazed carrots & mustard rabbit jus.  The first to two votes wins, and stays in the competition.  Jasper and Tom both vote for George, and just like that, he’s achieved redemption!  Katie packs her knives, joining the eliminated chefs for Last Chance Kitchen.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs are cooking for fans (minus Nicole because she was at the beach).  The fun part is that Tom, Gail, Padma, and Richard are going to do the shopping for them!  They draw knives to see which judge’s pantry they’ll be working in.

  • Tom shops for Mei
  • Padma shops for Gregory and George
  • Gail shops for Katsuji and Melissa
  • Richard shops for Adam and Dougie

When the judges arrive at Whole Foods, Richard makes a mad dash to proteins while Tom, Padma, and Gail leisurely shop through produce.  Tom takes, like, everything, casually dumping the entire stock of eggplant into his cart.  When Padma is looking for fennel, Tom’s already taken all of that too.  He’s also able to hypnotize Richard into giving him the lamb.  Gail admits she’s really just shopping for herself.  Padma admits that she can barely park at Whole Foods within the half hour shopping time limit, then decides to mess with Richard’s unattended cart knocking all the fish over.  Good times are had by all.

Without any preparation or knowledge of the ingredients, the cheftestants really have to think on their toes!  Here’s what they make:

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The top dishes of the night are Greg, Doug, and George.  Dougie takes home the win, though!

The bottom dishes of the night are Mei, Adam, and Melissa.  After all the complaining Adam did throughout this episode, I wasn’t so surprised to see him pack his knives and go!

What did you guys think of this crazy quickfire?!  Did you love it as much as I did?

Top Chef Boston: 12 Chefs Walk Into a Bar…

I loved this episode title so much, I wanted to use it for my recap too!  Fresh off Gregory’s back-to-back wins, some of the cheftestants are feeling a bit threatened.  Some, like Keriann, are starting to feel a bit homesick.  Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name

A note telling the cheftestants to meet her at 84 Beacon Street signed “Cheers, Padma” clues the chefs into their next location: CHEERS!  Stacy, my local girl, admits that she may have been asked to leave Cheers once, and was maybe not even aware they had food.

When they arrive at Cheers, George Wendt is there to help judge the Quickfire.  The chefs yell “Norm!” as soon as he appears and I couldn’t be happier.  Padma explains that Boston is a bar town, and that by law all bars must serve food here.  I actually didn’t know that.  The Quickfire Challenge is simple: make a tasty bar snack!

Some highlights:

Let's be real, I'll eat anything with an egg on it, but mayonnaise and peanut butter?  You have my attention, sir.

Let’s be real, I’ll eat anything with an egg on it, but mayonnaise and peanut butter? You have my attention, sir.

  • Aaron makes a burger with mayonnaise and peanut butter.  When Padma tastes it, she exclaims, “Oh my god, it’s not bad!”  I am infinitely intrigued.
  • Gregory drops a couple of burger buns as he plates and serves, and ends up presenting an incomplete dish.
  • George and Padma drink beers while they taste.  Padma said this was shot at 6 am, which is obvious from the completely empty bar, and by 7 am she was basically drunk.  Well, let’s just say, she seems like she’s having fun.

Gregory’s burger problems land him on the bottom, with James, who made a crudité that George says “just doesn’t feel like bar food.”

On the top we have Keriann, whose crab put her in favor with George, and Katsuji with his ceviche.  Katsuji wins immunity!  And wow, was this a good time to win it.

Michael Schlow comes out to announce the elimination challenge.  The cheftestants are to group themselves in threes to create a classic 3-course Italian menu at his restaurant, Via Matta.  The team whose menu is ordered the most wins the challenge.  Two will go home this week.

Here are the teams:

  • Orange: Adam, Mei, Doug
  • Purple: Katsuji, Greg, Aaron
  • Gray: Melissa, James, Keriann
  • Blue: Rebecca, Stacy, Katie

Michael Schlow stays in the kitchen to expedite.  Blue and purple get a lot of orders right away.  Gray’s momentum picks up as well.  Orange is pretty slow goings.  Of course, if the judges like your food, you’re safe.

In the dining room, Padma, Tom, Richard, and guest Emmy Rossum (Shameless) eagerly await their food.  There’s one twist: Emmy is gluten-free, and the chefs haven’t planned for this.

Purple is the first to serve the judges.

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For the gluten-free option, Katsuji simple removes the pasta from his pasta dish calling it a deconstructed ravioli.  Despite the sad display, it looks like Emmy got lucky as no one is a fan of the pasta.

Next up is Orange.

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The menu is not a hit with the diners, but the food is a hit with the judges.  Adam handles Emmy’s allergy well, making red quinoa polenta with seafood brodo in place of his pasta dish.  Fun fact of the Orange team: Mei is known as “the fish bitch” at home.  I kind of love that.

Gray goes next.

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Melissa’s dish is well-received as her pasta and peas are better by comparison to other teams’.  Her gluten-free option for Emmy rounds delicious: risotto with bacon-parmesan broth and spring pea purée.  Very smart substitute!

Finally, Blue serves.IMG_6382

Katie’s pasta is delicious, and she makes zucchini pasta for Emmy to keep her dish in-tact.  (That’s supposed to say “basil-walnut pesto” but I guess I capped too fast!)  That’s the best dish for this team, though…

For judging, Michael Schlow joins Padma, Tom, and Richard at the table.

The winning team, the one who sold the most menus, is Purple!  Katsuji’s ravioli gets a lot of criticism, but he had immunity and his team carried him to safety.

Orange is safe, since the judges really liked their food.

On the bottom: James, Stacy, and Rebecca.

James & Rebecca are asked to pack their knives.

 

I might be biased, since Stacy is my hometown hero, but I really think the judges made the right decision tonight.  James lets his point of view get muddled, and ends up forgettable.  His dish didn’t seem Italian to the judges.  Rebecca is no stand-out either– she played it safe with scallops to entice diners and just didn’t deliver.  I love how Emmy pointed out her fennel was promised to be charred, and just wasn’t.

What did you guys think of the double elimination?

Top Chef Boston: Not Complex to Eat!

The beautiful Padma Lakshmi and new judge/Top Chef alum Richard Blais welcome the new crop of cheftestants to Boston.  The sixteen hopefuls include the likes of Mei Lin, sous chef at Top Chef superstar Michael Voltaggio’s Ink, George Pagonis, business partner to Top Chef alum Mike Isabella, and Stacy Cogswell, executive chef of the Regal Beagle right here in my home city of Boston!

Padma announces that the first Quickfire is a Sudden Death Quickfire, meaning the loser will face possible elimination.  There are going to be a couple of these this season, she warns.  The first part of the Quickfire is a favorite of mine, the miss en place relay race!  The 16 cheftestants break into 4 teams:

  • The Red Team: Melissa, Joy, Gregory, and George
  • The Yellow Team: Ron, Stacy, Rebecca, and Katie
  • The Green Team: Doug, Adam, Aaron, and Keriann
  • The Blue Team: Mei, Michael, James, Katsuji

The relay is, of course, New England themed with the tasks being lobster, oysters, mackerel, and little neck clams.  Yum!

Blue team is out in front for the first three events, while yellow lags a bit.  Blue loses its lead at clams, because Katsuji has literally no idea how to open them.  It’s pretty painful to watch.  Ron on yellow makes up a lot of time, Green takes the lead and finishes just before them.  Blue gets their act together and slides into the third spot.  Red is the last to finish, meaning it’s time for part 2: the slowest person on the team is up for elimination.  The slowest is George, who also had trouble with clams.  He is to pick any cheftestant to cook against head-to-head.  If George wins, both stay.  If George loses, he goes home.

George picks Gregory, since he got the mackerel that George really wanted.

They have 20 minutes to cook.  Here’s what they come up with:

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Richard calls George’s dish elegant, but in need of heat.  He warns Gregory of trying to do so much, seeing more opportunity to mess up when there are three dishes instead of just one. Gregory ends up winning, sending poor George home very early! I really feel bad for this guy.   Blais said he put his heart on that plate, and mine is breaking for him.

With one cheftestant down, the rest face the Elimination Challenge.  Their challenge is to create an updated version of the first dish they remember cooking– a nod to Boston’s historic nature– for a Top Chef Food Festival at the Museum of Science.  The next day, they get 3 hours to cook for 250 guests.

Local legends like Barbara Lynch, Ming Tsai, and Top Chef alumni Kristen Kish and Tiffani Faison contribute to the atmospheric pressure. Tom, Gail, Richard, and Padma circulate trying the dishes. Marty Walsh (Boston’s Mayor) shows up mid-commercial break too, which is fun too.

Here’s what everyone made:

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